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Mr. Charles: A Tribute to A Mighty, Bright Ray of Light
By psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. B.L.T., The Rock Doc

Mr. Charles

Won't you play

One more song

For heaven's sake?

Mr. Charles

Wont' you play

One more song for the world?


One more song for the world...

If you ever feel like your back is up against the wall, and you are in the midst of your darkest night, consider the light, the life, the life story, and the extraordinary musical journal of Mr. Charles--Mr Ray Charles.  Seeing his brother drown before his very eyes as a young child would not stop him, though it would cause him tremendous heartache.  It was the same familiar heartache that Johnny Cash encountered when his brother was killed in a tragic accident involving an electric saw: <> 

The Parallel Lines Connecting Ray Charles and Johnny Cash 

The tragic loss of each artist's brother at a young age would be indelibly etched in the psyches of both Charles and Cash. Both men turned to God and relied upon their God-given personal and familial resources to endure this and many other hardships that would follow.  Both legendary figures drew upon the powerful defense known as sublimation (the only defense mechanism identified by Freud and other as healing in its effects) to transform the pain into something remarkably creative and profoundly influential.  Both Charles and Cash came from dire poverty, pulled themselves up, with a little (actually a lot) of help from above, and made an understatement out of the term, "rags to riches."  

Both men had strong, nurturing mothers who inculcated emotional survival skills in each man and embedded within each heart a deep love for people and an undying compassion for those in the throes of poverty and depravity.  

Creatively speaking, both men stood at the helm of bold stylistic changes that were emerging in popular music.  Both men refused to acknowledge the artificially-imposed stylistic boundaries that prevented music from going where no man had gone before.  Both were at the helm of creativity itself.  Both were at the vanguard of creative ebullience and prolific afflatus. 

Ray's Blindness and His Vision   
Along with losing his sight, Ray Charles lost his ability to store iconic images--that is, he lost access to the brief availability of visual impressions associated with short-term storage and retrieval of visual images.  But nobody could take away the seven years of visual images stored in long term memory.  Thank God that perception is so powerfully shaped by past knowledge.  In some ways it is easier for someone who has been blind since birth, since that person cannot possibly understand what they are missing.  Ray treasured the seven years of vision that God granted him.  The most beautiful visual memory he beheld was the face of his loving mother, who gave him the courage to face this and so many other arduous, painful trials.    

Ray's eyes had seen many beautiful sights before they ultimately beheld the horror of a brother who had tragically drown.  

He would hold on to those sights and behold the visual memories with such clarity and appreciation that he could make us see things that we had clearly overlooked.  Ray would sing, "America, the Beautiful " with such conviction and heartfelt emotion that was like we were seeing the beauty of American land and seascapes for the first time.  

While we watched

You played on

Gave the world

One more song

While we cried

You dried our tears

Then you slipped away


You just slipped away...

Ray Charles slipped away quietly.  We were in a sense blind to the headlines because those headlines were obfuscated by the headlines depicting the death of Ronald Reagan and the majestically mournful sequels that followed the news.  He "slipped away," in a shadow, similar to the manner in which John Ritter "slipped away," immediately following the death of Johnny Cash.  But both Reagan and Charles were giants in their own right.  Both moved the world in different ways.

Reagan died

You slipped away

In the Gipper's shadow

Like Ritter did when Johnny died

Footnotes on the page...

Like he held on to the face of his mother, we hold on to the visual image of a passionate Ray leaning over the piano singing and moving our spirits further to glory with every note. I was too busy being born to notice the apex of his burgeoning career.  He was touring Europe and basking in fame, and changing the face of modern music the year I slipped out of my mother's womb and onto the stage of life.  He was a country boy, and he sang country with sincere soul and absolute conviction.  He could take a country song, and make it swing.  He could take a rhythm and blues song and make it ring.  He could take a rock 'n' roll song, and make it rattle.  He could take a gospel song, and give us the strength to face any spiritual mountain or uphill battle.  Music wasn't something he did.  It was who he was.  

When I heard you singin'

"Georgia, on my mind,"

I told myself, "I'm the one who's blind."

You could touch and see

The things deep down in your soul

You told a story 

No one else had told

So, Mr. Charles, these are my words, and this is my song for you.  And I'm only going to ask you this one more time.  Well, don't hold me to it!:

Mr. Charles

Won't you play

One more song

For heaven's sake

Mr. Charles

Won't you sing

One more song for the world


One more song for the world

*** If you're a Phantom Tollbooth reader, feel free to download the one-song soundtrack to the above article at no charge.  To download, Ray (Mr. Charles), visit <www.drblt.htm> 



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